Bliss: Violin Concerto; A Colour Symphony

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; A Colour Symphony
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
At once opulent, rhythmically


virile and spiced with typical 1920s

dissonance, Bliss’s Colour Symphony

was the work that put him on the

map and it remains one of his most

characteristic achievements. It’s

fared well on disc – the composer’s

own 1950s account with the LSO

(and he was a very good conductor)

is a classic, originally recorded for

Decca but last reissued by Dutton.

Barry Wordsworth turned in a

sturdy version for Nimbus with

the BBC Welsh SO (as it then

was), and Chandos already have a

Vernon Handley performance with

the Ulster Orchestra in their back

catalogue. However the only current

competitor with this new Richard

Hickox version (the second to use

what is now the BBC National

Orchestra of Wales) is David Lloyd-

Jones’s splendid performance for

Naxos with the English Northern

Philharmonia, very competitive at

its bargain price. But I feel Hickox

just comes out in front, projecting

Bliss’s invention in full splendour.

Chandos’s recording efficiently

disentangles and differentiates the various lines in the sometimes

congested tuttis, confirming the

composer’s contrapuntal powers.

The Violin Concerto is a more

problematic piece. Written for

Campoli, it certainly celebrates

the original dedicatee’s renowned

cantabile and gypsy fire, but makes

a fainter impression than, say, the

Walton Concerto, to which it is

stylistically close. Bliss had problems

with the finale, and the complex

form he eventually found for it is

always in danger of sounding merely

rhapsodic. But it is a splendid

vehicle for a violinist of the right

temperament, and Lydia Mordkovich

rises to its challenges with ardour

and consummate technique. While

the composer’s own version with

Campoli remains unavailable,

there is no rival, and devotees of the

composer will need no persuasion to

acquire this valuable addition to his


discography. Calum MacDonald